Brian Mulroney

From Academic Kids

The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney
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Rank: 18th
Term of Office: September 17, 1984 - June 25, 1993
Predecessor: John Turner
Successor: Kim Campbell
Date of Birth: March 20, 1939
Place of Birth: Baie-Comeau, Quebec
Spouse: Mila Pivnicki
Children one daughter, three sons
Profession: Lawyer / businessman
Political Party: Progressive Conservative

The Right Honourable Martin Brian Mulroney, PC, CC (born March 20, 1939), was the eighteenth Prime Minister of Canada from September 17, 1984, to June 25, 1993.

Born in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister after his Progressive Conservative Party won the most parliamentary seats in Canadian history. Mulroney was unique in Canadian politics in that he had never been a career politician. A longtime businessman, he had become leader of the Progressive Conservative Party without any political experience, running as an outsider. He was thus the only Prime Minister of Canada who never held a ministerial position other than Prime Minister.



The son of a paper mill electrician, he received his high school education at a Catholic boarding school in Chatham, New Brunswick operated by St. Thomas University. He graduated with an undergraduate degree from Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he was a nationally ranked debater. He then obtained a law degree from Laval University in Quebec City. After graduation, he joined a Montreal law firm, and on May 26, 1973, he married Mila Pivnicki, the daughter of Yugoslav (Serbian) immigrants. The Mulroneys have four children: Nicolas, Mark, Ben and Caroline.

Although Brian Mulroney had not yet held public office, he had worked for the Progressive Conservative Party for years. In 1976, he ran for election as PC leader at the party's leadership convention, but lost to Joe Clark. Following this, Mulroney took the job of Executive Vice President of the Iron Ore Company of Canada, a joint subsidiary of three major U.S. steel corporations. In 1977, he was appointed company President.

By mid-1983, Joe Clark's leadership of the Progressive Conservative party was being questioned. Mulroney organized to defeat Clark at the party's leadership review. When Clark received an endorsement by less than 67 percent of delegates at the party convention, Clark resigned from the leadership, resulting in the 1983 leadership convention. Brian Mulroney was again a candidate, and he campaigned more shrewdly than he had done seven years before. He was elected party leader on June 11, 1983, beating Clark on the fourth ballot. He attracted broad support from the many factions of the party, especially from representatives of his native Québec. After winning a by-election in the riding of Central Nova, Mulroney entered the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa on August 28, 1983.

When Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau retired in June 1984, the Liberal Party chose John Turner as its new leader. Turner called a general election for September. The Progressive Conservatives won the largest majority government in the history of Canada with 211 of 282 seats. They also led in every province, emerging as a national party for the first time since the 1958 election. Mulroney is remembered for his performance in the debate in which he attacked Turner over a patronage scandal. Many observers considered the debate a turning point in the campaign.

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Arms of the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney

Prime Minister

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The Mulroneys with President and Mrs. Reagan in Quebec, Canada, March 18, 1985, the day after the famous "Shamrock Summit", when the two leaders sang "When Irish Eyes are Smiling".

During his tenure as Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney's close relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan resulted in the ratification of a free-trade treaty with the United States under which all tariffs between the two countries would be eliminated by 1998. Critics noted that Mulroney had originally professed opposition to free trade during the 1983 leadership campaign. This agreement was very controversial, and was the central issue of the 1988 election, in which Mulroney's party was re-elected with a strong majority in Parliament (however only with 43% of the popular vote). This trade liberalization was expanded in 1992 through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Another major undertaking by Mulroney's government was the divisive issue of national unity. Mulroney wanted to include Québec in a new agreement with the rest of Canada. Quebec was the only province that did not sign the new Canadian constitution negotiated by Pierre Trudeau in 1982. Additionally, for years, many people of the province of Québec had believed that their French-speaking culture merited a distinct status within Canada, and a widespread movement to secede from Canada had developed in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1987, Mulroney negotiated the Meech Lake Accord with the provincial premiers, a series of constitutional amendments designed to satisfy Québec's demand for recognition as a "distinct society" within Canada. However, many English-Canadians objected to the accord, and it was not ratified by the provincial governments of Manitoba and Newfoundland before the 1990 ratification deadline. This failure sparked a revival of Quebec separatism, and led to another round of meetings in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in 1991 and 1992. These negotiations culminated in the Charlottetown Accord, which outlined extensive changes to the constitution, including recognition of Québec as a distinct society. However, the agreement was defeated in a national referendum in October 1992.

Although Mulroney had retained a parliamentary majority in the 1988 elections, widespread public resentment of a new Goods and Services Tax (GST) introduced in 1991, and his inability to resolve the Quebec situation caused Mulroney's popularity to decline considerably. He resigned as PC leader and prime minister in 1993.

Mulroney's government was actively opposed to the apartheid regime in South Africa. Mulroney met with many opposition leaders throughout his ministry. His position put him at odds with the American and British governments, but also won him respect elsewhere.

Mulroney supported the coalition during the 1991 Gulf War and sent Canadian jets to participate. In August he sent the destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and HMCS Athabaskan to enforce the trade blockade against Iraq. The supply ship HMCS Protecteur was also sent to aid the gathering coalition forces. When the UN authorized full use of force in the operation, Canada sent a CF18 squadron with support personnel. Canada also sent a field hospital to deal with casualties from the ground war.

When the air war began, Canada's planes were integrated into the coalition force and provided air cover and attacked ground targets. This was the first time since the Korean War that Canadian forces had participated in combat operations.

Mulroney's government also held a referendum in the North West Territories on the issue of creating a new territory from the eastern half of the North West Territories to be called Nunavut. Nunavut, in which the Inuit people form the majority, provides that people a measure of self-government. The people of the North West Territories voted "yes", and Nunavut came in to being in 1999.

Another major policy initiative was the signing of an Acid-Rain Accord with the United States.

After politics

Since leaving office, Mulroney has pursued a lucrative career as a lawyer at Ogilvy Renault and an international business consultant. His experiences as prime minister, such as trying to reconcile the western provinces and Quebec and his close relationship with former President George H.W. Bush, have served him well.

In 1997, Mulroney settled a defamation lawsuit he had brought against the Government of Canada, originally for $50 million. At issue were allegations that Mulroney had accepted bribes in the so-called "Airbus affair" concerning government contracts. Mulroney was re-imbursed for $2 million in legal fees. The government said the allegations could not be substantiated.

William Kaplan, a historian and former law professor, discusses payments from German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber to Mulroney in his 2004 book A Secret Trial, published by McGill-Queens University Press. Schreiber paid Brian Mulroney $100,000 in cash not long after Mulroney stepped down as prime minister -- and another $200,000 in cash over the next two years. Schreiber himself received millions of dollars in commissions related to the sale of Airbus Jets to Air Canada, which in turn touched off one of the biggest scandals in German political history. Shreiber is currently fighting extradition to Germany to face charges of fraud.

It is unclear what services Mulroney performed for Schreiber to earn the money; Mulroney maintains he is "as clean as a whistle" and points out that he declared the money and paid tax on it. Despite the payments, Mulroney had previously sworn under oath that he had only a "peripheral" relationship to Schreiber. Kaplan calls the testimony evasive, incomplete and misleading -- but concludes that it does not rise to the level of perjury. He adds that no evidence has ever emerged that Mulroney was involved in the decision to purchase Airbus airplanes. To this day, many questions about the Airbus affair remain unanswered.

In 1998, Mulroney was accorded Canada's highest civilian honour when he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

In January 2004, Mulroney delivered a keynote speech in Washington, D.C. celebrating the tenth anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In June 2004, Mulroney presented a moving eulogy for former U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the latter's state funeral. Mulroney was the first foreign dignitary to eulogize at a Presidential funeral. (Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a close friend of Reagan and Mulroney, was too ill to travel but she delivered her address by satellite.)

In February 2005, Mulroney was diagnosed with a lesion on one of his lungs. In his youth, Mulroney had been a heavy smoker. He underwent successful surgery and was recovered well enough to tape a speech for the 2900 delegates attending the new Conservative Party of Canada's inaugural Policy Convention in Montreal in March though he could not attend in person. Though his surgery was initially reported to have gone on without incident, he later developed pancreatitis and he remained in hospital for several weeks. It was not until April 19 that his son, Ben Mulroney, announced he was recovering and would soon be released.

Mulroney played a minor role in the scandal that ensued when Belinda Stronach, the Member of Parliament for Newmarket--Aurora, crossed the floor to join the Liberal Party of Canada and was appointed Minister of Human Resources. Stronach claimed that she had Mulroney's support for this move, but Senator Marjory LeBreton, speaking for Mulroney, clarified that while the former Prime Minister expressed his thanks for Stronach's friendship, he did not support her move.


Like many former national leaders, Mulroney is greatly concerned with how he will be viewed by history. He makes the case that his once controversial policies on the economy and free trade were not reversed by subsequent governments. Mulroney regards this as vindication -- and an increasing number of neutral observers agree.

Two of his most controversial moves were the the 1988 free trade agreement and the 1992 Goods and Services Tax. Although the Tories were re-elected with a large majority in 1988 campaigning on free trade (mostly due to support in the westen provinces and Quebec), they only won with 43% of the popular vote, compared to 56% of the vote which went to both the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party who campaigned mostly against the Free Trade Agreement.

Environmentalists, social activists, nationalists, labour leaders and members of the cultural community continue to complain today of alleged injustices Canada faces due to free trade. Free Trade is not dead as an issue, but has been put on the back burner compared to issues like health care, the kyoto protocol, the gun registry, child care, taxation, equalization payments and the Atlantic accord.

The "in your face" nature of the Goods and Services Tax proved to be just as unpopular, if not more so. The GST was created for two purposes, to help eliminate the ever growing deficit and to repalce the hidden Manufacturer's sales tax (which Mulroney claimed was hurting business). On large purchases Canadians paid pretty much the same as before, but on small purhcases Canadians paid far more and could also see how much they were being taxed which angered them. Two of most important parts of the Liberal campaign (the Red Book) in 1993 which smashed the Tories (particularly in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces) promised to renegotiate the Free Trade Agreement to protect the environment, cultural institutions and political decision making power; and to repeal the hated GST. Neither promise was kept, as the Liberals where trying to raise revenue and cut spending at all costs during the mid 1990s to eliminate the deficit, which was finally acheived in 1998.

Mulroney's intense unpopularity at the time of his resignation led many Conservative politicians to distance themselves from him for some years. Mulroney began to re-emerge in the late 1990s as something of an elder statesman. But that perception is not universally shared. Many Canadians still regard Mulroney as a polarizing figure.

Social conservatives also found fault with Mulroney in a variety of areas. These include his opposition to capital punishment and outlawing abortion, his tax increases and his failure to curtail expansion of "big government" programmes and political patronage. However, Mulroney's view on those positions established him in the eyes of social-conservatives as a Red Tory (most Red Tories would disagree), though for most of his tenure he was moderate enough to be electable across Canada. Leaders of the Reform, Canadian Alliance, and currently the Conservative Party have been socially conservative Blue Tories, which has solidified their support in western Alberta but failed to make headway in the more centralized Ontario, Quebec or Atlantic region (once PC strongholds).

The initially unflattering view of Mulroney's legacy began when he was replaced as Prime Minister and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party by Defence Minister Kim Campbell. She suffered a stunning electoral defeat in the 1993 election. Many blamed Mulroney not only for his unpopular policies, but also because Mulroney had stayed on as leader for almost the entire mandate, only resigning at last minute in 1993 when an election would have to be called not long after and leaving Campbell with little time to consolidate her leadership. The Canadian political right had fragmented during Mulroney's tenure. Many veteran Cabinet Ministers and MPs decided not to run for re-eleciton. Western conservatives left the Progressive Conservative party for the new Reform Party, and Quebec conservatives left to join the separatist Bloc Québécois. This fragmentation contributed to the defeat of the Progressive Conservative Party, and left it a marginal force in the House of Commons. The Canadian right was not reunited until the December 2003 merger of the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance (successor to the Reform Party) to form the new Conservative Party of Canada.

Mulroney played an influential role by supporting the merger at a time when former Progressive Conservative leaders such as Joe Clark, Jean Charest and Kim Campbell either opposed it or expressed ambivalence.

Mulroney had also been attacked for his relationship with the U.S. by Jean Chrétien, who had a good relationship with Bill Clinton. Chrétien attacked Mulroney for his friendships with both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.


"Real leadership is often the antithesis of popularity." [1] (

Preceded by:
John Turner
Prime Minister of Canada
Succeeded by:
Kim Campbell
Preceded by:
Erik Nielsen
Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons
Succeeded by:
John Turner
Preceded by:
Erik Nielsen
Progressive Conservative Leaders
Succeeded by:
Kim Campbell
Preceded by:
Elmer M. MacKay, PC
Members of Parliament from Central Nova
Succeeded by:
Elmer M. MacKay, PC
Preceded by:
André Maltais, Liberal
Members of Parliament from Manicouagan
Succeeded by:
Charles A. Langlois, PC
Preceded by:
Charles Hamelin, PC
Members of Parliament from Charlevoix
Succeeded by:
Gérard Asselin, Bloc Québécois

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